Big island residents are cautioned to avoid eating slugs and snails and to take care in the washing and preparation of garden greens in areas affected by rats, slugs and snails.
Rat lungworm is a tropical disease found in warm, moist climes that is caused by Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a parasitic worm carried by rats. The rat lungworm parasites live in the pulmonary arteries of rats, much in the same way that dogs in Hawaii are affected with heartworm. However canine heartworm Dirofilaria immitus does not affect humans The heartworm life cycle begins when a dog with circulating microfilaria in its bloodstream is bitten by a mosquito whereas the rats excrete worm larvae in their feces, which are sometimes eaten by small snails and slugs that reside in the folds of lettuce, peppers and other produce.
Disease cycle : The mature (adult) form of the parasite is found only in rodents (it is not found in people). Infected rats pass immature forms (larvae) of the parasite in their feces. Snails and slugs get infected by ingesting the larvae in rat feces. These larvae mature in snails and slugs but do not become adult worms. The life cycle comes full circle when rats eat infected snails or slugs and the larvae further mature to become adult worms.
Symptoms: After ingesting the worm larvae, people report symptoms including severe headache, stiff neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "There have been documented deaths but they are very rare," says Sarah Park, the state epidemiologist for Hawaii. The severity of the illness seems to depend on how many worms are ingested, how strong a person's immune system happens to be, and how long the worm stays in the cerbral spinal fluid she notes, adding that it in some cases worms have survived for up to several months.